Re: The Flood/ID

Bill Hamilton (
Tue, 31 Mar 1998 14:12:43 -0500

At 10:18 PM 3/31/98 +1000, Jon Warren wrote:
>... I was raised in a Christian family, and am not a
>scientist, although I have read fairly widely and believe I
>have a better than average grasp of scientific matters. Some
>years ago I became interested in Creation Science. However after
>reading a lot of their material I decided to read some of the
>refutations made by other scientists, and came to the conclusion
>that a lot of Creationists are not scientists. This sparked
>somewhat of a crisis in my faith with which I am still struggling.

I went through the same struggle in the late 80's. I hope I can help. For
what it's worth I concluded that we are misusing the Bible when we insist
that our current understanding of nature must conform to our current
understanding of God's revelation in Scripture. Jn 20:31 says "But these
are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that by believing you may have life in his name." That's a pretty good
statement of the purpose of Scripture -- one which we ought to keep in mind
when interpreting it. Some Christians worry about the danger that continual
reinterpretation of Scripture will eventually relegate it to the category
of myth. That's a legitimate concern, but let's remember that Scripture is
different from any other book. God gave us the indwelling Holy Spirit to
enable us to understand it, and I do not believe the Holy Spirit will allow
Spirit-filled Christians to interpret away the essentials.
>Firstly the Flood question. The February 98 edition of Scientific
>American has an article on Greenland Ice Cores, by Messrs Richard
>Alley and Michael Bender. In the article they explain how ice
>crystals formed during summer and winter vary in size, and how in
>spring the stronger winds deposit more dust onto the ice. They
>use this information to count the yearly layers of ice formed in
>Greenland, and are also able to calibrate the data using trapped
>volcanic dust from known eruptions. The problem for believers in a
>global flood is that the authors of the article believe they have
>counted back 110,000 years, with no interruptions of a cataclysmic
>nature. How can this information be reconciled with the account in
>Genesis of a global flood?

Probably the most viable explanation is that the flood was local. The
Hebrew word eretz, which is translated "earth" in Genesis can as well mean
"land". Dick Fischer and Glenn Morton, both regulars on this list, have
both formulated explanations of the flood which they have published in book
form. And they of course are not the only Christians who have written on
this issue.
>The second question relates to the issue of intelligent design.
>Richard Dawkins in his book "The Blind Watchmaker" (pages 15 & 93)
>relates how the human eye is structured, and in particular how the
>photocells do not have their light sensitive area closest to the
>source of light, but instead buried several layers down. The
>nerve cells connecting the eye to the brain are instead uppermost,
>and the connections run across the surface of the retina to the
>"blind spot" where they pass through the retina and on to the brain.
>Is it reasonable to ask why the eye is designed in this way,
>when any human engineer would be able to suggest an obvious
>improvement, ie have the nerve cells behind the light sensitive
>area, eliminating the need for a blind spot. This is especially
>the case when we discover that this is how the eye of the octopus
>is structured. Are we allowed to ask why an intelligent designer
>would choose this design? Is there some hidden benefit we are
>unaware of? Is he just demonstrating his creative power?
As an engineer, these sorts of claims always bother me. In order to
determine whether something is good or bad design, you have to know what
the designer had in mind. Perhaps (for example) the nerves overlaying the
rods and cones provide some protection from high intensity light. Bringing
all the optic nerves out at one point might also have some advantages in
making the eye mobile (I don't know whether octopi can move their eyes).
But all this is sheer speculation without knowing what the designer was
trying to accomplish. Human designers make tradeoffs. You wouldn't think
God would have to make tradeoffs, but think again. Once he had made even
one decision about the characteristics of entities in nature, then honoring
that decision constrains other designs. The evolutionists who postulate
examples of bad design are reacting -- understandably -- to the Christian
argument from design. From my viewpoint, though, it's just as difficult to
claim that something is badly designed without knowing the design criteria
as it is to claim something _is_ designed.

I hope this helps. And welcome, btw.
Bill Hamilton
Staff Research Engineer
Chassis and Vehicle Systems
GM R&D Center
Warren, MI